Teaching Children Empathy Through Reading

empathyWe all know that reading every once in a while gives children a chance to gain literacy and fluency skills, opening their imagination to various fantasy worlds and encouraging them to use more complicated words in different contexts. But did you know it may also help to teach children empathy?

A study conducted from Cambridge University by professor of education Maria Nikolajeva has concluded that reading fiction gives young children fictitious situations in which they can develop and practise empathy. It also gives them an understanding of how other people feel and think.

Finding the right story is essential, as it needs to be a situation in which the children can put their own thoughts and feelings. For this reason, Jacqueline Wilson’s books are incredibly useful due to the way she writes about real life situations and issues from the point of view of young children. Jacqueline Wilson is famous for her gutsy character ‘Tracy Beaker’ and such books as ‘The Suitcase Kid’, ‘Four Children and It’ and ‘The Worry Website’

Young readers connect with the main characters in their story books, following their failures and successes, their wins and losses. They feel the same things as these characters, leading to an understanding of empathy. Empathy can be learned from a very young age in its most basic concept, but in order to gain a deeper understanding of empathy, you need to be able to get into the mind of another, and what better way to do this than with a good book?

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